Category Archives: Food Systems Planning News

Just Food, Just Communities: Tuesday, Nov. 10

Please join the Food Lab for a night of critical conversations focused on issues of justice in the food system.

The Just Food, Just Communities event brings together community partners, scholars, and students to engage in a conversation about the links between racial, economic, and food injustices, and strategies to address them. The event will be held on November 10 at King Urban Life Center Church, 938 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY 14211. Community organizations, policy makers, university faculty, students, and residents are invited to attend.

Shirley Sherrod, civil rights leader and food justice advocate, will deliver the keynote. Sherrod co-founded the New Communities Land Trust, a collective farm in Southwest Georgia, owned and operated by black farmers in the 1970s and early 80s. Sherrod currently serves as the Executive Director of the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education (SWGAP), a not-for-profit she also co-founded in the 60s. SWGAP’s mission is to educate, engage, and empower through advocacy and community organizing. SWGAP has addressed issues as diverse as school desegregation, voter rights, and access to land for African American farmers. 



Northeast Sustainable Ag Working Group Hosts Conference on Nov. 12-14

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) will be hosting its annual It Takes a Region Conference on November 12-14 in Saratoga Springs, NY. The conference brings together farm and food practitioners across the 12-state Northeast region to learn, debate, collaborate, and innovate solutions to critical food systems issues. This years’s theme is Putting the MOVE in the Movement.  Shirley Sherrod, long time civil rights activist and advocate for family farmers, will be the keynote speaker for the event. The conference will include: 

Sessions on movement building include:

  • Policy organizing
  • Addressing racism in the food system
  • Food movements and food activism

Session that address food access and health include:

  • Sustainable dietary guidelines
  • Farm-to-Institution, including farm-to-hospital
  • Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast

Sessions addressing food chain justice, fair wages and working conditions include:

  • Farmers and farm workers
  • Farm-to-institution
  • Food hubs and distribution

Sessions on improving business practices and community development include:

  • Food hubs
  • Measuring farm profitability

For more information and registration details, see the conference website. 

Ithaca Hosts Global Food Security Conference, Oct. 11-14.

Cornell University and Columbia University are hosting their 2nd International Conference on Global Food Security in Ithaca, NY on October 11-14.  The multi-disciplinary conference will cover a range of themes, including:

  • Global and local analyses of food security and its drivers
  • Policies to improve local and global food security
  • Sustainable intensification of food production systems
  • Urbanization, food value chains, and the sustainable, secure sourcing of food
  • Competing demands and tradeoffs for land and water resources
  • Technological breakthroughs to help feed 9+ billion
  • Reducing food loss and waste
  • Reducing risks to food production and distribution from climate change
  • Consumer behavior, nutritional security and food assistance programs
  • Business-science cooperation to advance food security
  • The agriculture-nutrition-health nexus

The conference aims to better understand behavioral, biophysical, economic, institutional, political, social and technological drivers of current and future global food security. The conference will address the food system activities of processing, distributing and consuming food, as well as food production from crop, livestock, tree, freshwater and marine sources; the availability, access, utilization and stability dimensions of food security; and the synergies and trade-offs between economic, environmental, health and social objectives and outcomes. 

For more information and registration information, see the conference website. 

American Farmland Trust Conference in Albany, NY on Nov. 4

The American Farmland Trust will be hosting Harvesting Opportunities in New York Conference on November 4th in Albany, NY.  The day long conference will include six different tracks including: Save Farms in Your Community, Buy Local, Keep Farmers on the Land, Agricultural Stewardship in a Changing Climate, Spread the Word, and Local Agriculture and Land Use Leadership Institute. For more information about this event, please see their website and RSPV soon.  Below is information regarding topics covered at the conference.

“This conference is for people who care about New York agriculture and want to work together to grow local food economies, protect farmland from development, promote environmental stewardship on farms and support the next generation of farmers. Conference participants will include: farmers, public officials from all levels of government, land trusts, local food and public health leaders, institutional food-service managers, agricultural organizations, environmentalists, conservation professionals and concerned citizens.”

Conference tracks will include the following. Click on the name of each track for more detailed explanations of the topics covered and a list of scheduled presenters.

Track 1: Save Farms in Your Community

  • Farming in the City & the Country: Land, Economics, & Public Benefit
  • Growing Resources for Farmland Conservation Funding
  • Eminent Domain: Strengthening Protections for Farmland in Your Community

Track 2: Buy Local

  • Farm to College: Value Chain Collaboration from Farmer to Student
  • Food Hubs: Building the Supply Chain
  • Farm to School: Bringing Local to the Lunchroom

Track 3: Keep Farmers on the Land

  • Increasing Farmer Access to Publicly Owned Farmland
  • Investing in Helping Farmers Find a Farm
  • Using Agricultural Conservation Easements to Aid Farmers in Securing Land

Track 4: Agricultural Stewardship in a Changing Climate

  • Climate Change and New York Agriculture
  • Improving Soil Health to Increase Farmers’ Productivity and Resilience
  • Alternative Perspectives on Agriculture, Local Food and Climate Change

Track 5: Spread the Word

  • Communicating About Agriculture with Non-Farming Audiences
  • Telling Stories to Promote Agriculture & Local Food Part 1
  • Telling Stories to Promote Agriculture & Local Food Part 2

Track 6: Local Agriculture and Land Use Leadership Institute

  • Leadership Competencies: What’s Really Important?
  • Connecting Land Use Planning, Farmland Protection & Agricultural Economic Development
  • Identifying Productive Farmland in Your Community

Even though interest in growing the farm and food economy in New York has never been higher, there are major challenges facing agriculture in New York. Over the last 25 years nearly half a million acres of farmland, the equivalent of 4,500 farms, has been lost to housing developments, shopping malls and big box stores. And, with nearly 30 percent of farmers in New York over age 65, there is an important need to help farm families plan for transferring their farms and the next generation of farmers find a farm in New York. All of this is further complicated by severe weather and challenges in adapting our farm and food system to a changing climate.

Dr. Samina Raja to Give Lecture at Cornell University

The Food Lab’s Principal Investigator, Samina Raja, will be giving a lecture at Cornell University’s Architecture, Art, and Planning School on Friday, September 25th.  She will be speaking on new research on the role of local government in regulating and investing in the food system.  Her lecture, Over Regulation and Under-investment: Local Government Planning Response to Problems in the Food System, is co-sponsored by the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell Engaged Learning + Research, and the Robert Van Nest Lecture Fund.  For more information, click here.  An abstract of the work is below.


As calls to strengthen communities’ food systems continue to grow, local governments have begun to respond by deploying a host of planning and policy tools. Some are preparing comprehensive food systems plans; others are offering tax incentives to foster community food businesses. This is, some would argue, a heady time for food systems planning. Yet this turn warrants great caution and clarity about the purpose and means by which public policy is used to intervene in the food system. Overregulation and underinvestment — the current mode of local government intervention in the food system — is unlikely to address its problems. This presentation draws on a decade-long qualitative study of Buffalo, New York, and reviews trends nationally to illustrate the possibilities and pitfalls of using local government planning to strengthen food systems. It highlights the important, if challenging, role of community engagement in developing and implementing food policies and plans.


Growing Food Connections Announces New Policy Brief Series

Growing Food Connections, a project of the Food Lab, is pleased to announce the creation of Translating Research for Policy, a new series of policy briefs that brings original and published research on food systems planning to the attention of a broad audience of food system practitioners, local governments, planners and policy makers.  The first brief, How Food Policy Emerges, is now available.  This brief shares the work found in the journal article Rustbelt Radicalism: A decade of food systems planning in Buffalo, New York, originally published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

How Food Policy Emerges documents how community activists, coined Rustbelt Radicals, use community-led practice to shape local government policy in Buffalo, New York. Their incremental yet collective transformation of the food system in a limited-resource community offers a paradigm of change for other post-industrial cities.  The brief features seven factors that bring food to the public policy table, offering a blueprint for communities looking to shift from food-blind plans and policies to introducing food as a public issue in their community.

Jamestown Post Journal Covers Kickoff Event for Growing Food Connections in Chautauqua County, NY

County Executive Kicks Off Growing Food Connections Program

April 10, 2015

By Jimmy McCarthy, Jamestown Post Journal

Chautauqua County is one of eight communities across the nation receiving designation as a “Community of Opportunity” in the Growing Food Connections initiative, and the program took a step forward Thursday.

County Executive Vince Horrigan joined GFC team members and partners to announce the program’s kickoff at the Frank W. Bratt Agricultural Center. The county was the only community in New York state selected. The goal is to strengthen nutrition while helping farmers thrive.

“That’s exactly where I want to see us go as county executive,” Horrigan said. “I want to see us as the best of the best. This opportunity is huge.”

County Executive Vince Horrigan joins Growing Food Connections team members and partners to announce the kickoff of the Growing Food Connections initiative in Chautauqua County. Pictured from left are: Ann Abdella, executive director of the Chautauqua County Health Network; Julia Freedgood, assistant vice president for programs for the American Farmland Trust; County Executive Vince Horrigan; Emily Reynolds, interim operations manager for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County; and Samina Raja, principal investigator and associate professor at the University of Buffalo.

The initiative is funded through a U.S Department of Agriculture grant, and is designed to assist local governments create plans, policies, partnerships and public investments to enhance food systems from the farm to the consumer. The initiative also aims to support underserved residents.

The GFC initiative is led by the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University of Buffalo in partnership with the American Farmland Trust. Samina Raja, principal investigator and associate professor at the University of Buffalo, said the GFC is committed to the county’s stakeholders.

A 15-member steering committee the county established holds the duty to guide the initiative. The committee will have responsibilities of building strong collaboration, providing insights to local coordinators and ensuring work is sustained beyond the life of the initiative.

Raja said the county will also be a part of a national network of other counties trying new and innovative ideas.

“With its strong agricultural base, resilient workforce and collaborative ethos, Chautauqua County has all the ingredients to emerge as a model county in the state and country,” she said.

Julia Freedgood, assistant vice president of programs for American Farmland Trust, said the initiative begins with understanding what is happening in the county. From there, she said GFC officials will work with the steering committee and local government to build off assets and opportunities.

“Broadly, that’s to connect local agriculture to make it viable and thrive with all consumers, especially those underserved,” Freedgood said. “It could be building a bigger and better farmers market system. It could be building a food hub.”

The local initiative is led by the county and Cornell Cooperative Extension with assistance from the Chautauqua County Health Network and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.

“We have a lot of potential to tap into the resources from Cornell University and what we do at the cooperative extension,” said Emily Reynolds, interim operations manager for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County. “It’s a wonderful collaboration, and I’m excited about the possibilities.”

Raja commended all stakeholders who made sure the application rose to a competitive level at the national stage.

The GFC initiative throughout the U.S. is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative that’s funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a federal agency within the USDA.

For more information about the Growing Food Connections project, visit For more information about Chautauqua County’s Growing Food Connections initiative, contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension at 664-9502 ext. 202 or ext. 212.

Buffalo Business First Features Growing Food Connections Partnership with Eight Communities of Opportunity

Chautauqua County Tapped for Farm/Food Initiative

March 5, 2015.

By David Bertola, Buffalo Business First

Chautauqua County is among eight U.S. communities to receive training and assistance to link farmers to residents who lack access to healthy food.

American Farmland Trust will lead outreach efforts in partnership with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, Ohio State University and Cultivating Healthy Places. The American Planning Association and the Growing Food Connections National Advisory Committee also advise the project; and the UB lab is the project lead.

Over a three-year period, Growing Food Connections will work with local governments to create their own plans, policies and partnerships, and make public investments to support family farmers. Growing Food Connections is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, will help local governments, planners, family farmers and consumers work together to strengthen their food systems.

The eight communities are models for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges.

Samina Raja, Growing Food Connections principal investigator and associate professor of urban and regional planning at University at Buffalo, said that the communities were selected from a competitive nationwide search and application process.

“The selected local governments will blaze a path for more than 30,000 local governments in the United States that have traditionally overlooked the problems and opportunities in their communities’ food systems,” Raja said.

Farm and Dairy News Features Growing Food Connection’s Partnership with Eight Communities of Opportunity

Eight Pilot Communities will Build Links Between Farmers and Consumers

March 23, 2015

Farm and Dairy News

WASHINGTON — Eight communities across the country will receive training and assistance to link family farmers and local residents who lack access to healthy food.

Growing Food Connections will help local governments, planners, family farmers, and consumers work together to strengthen their food systems. The collaborative effort is coordinated by American Farmland Trust.

Pilot communities

The eight Communities of Opportunity are:

  • Chautauqua County, New York (Jamestown)
  • Cumberland County, Maine (Portland)
  • Dougherty County, Georgia (Albany)
  • Dona Ana County, New Mexico (Las Cruces)
  • Douglas County, Nebraska (Omaha)
  • Luna County, New Mexico (Deming)
  • Polk County, North Carolina (Columbus)
  • Wyandotte County, Kansas (Kansas City)

Game plan

“We have found that local leaders want tools and resources, not handouts,” said AFT Assistant Vice President for Programs Julia Freedgood.

“And, that’s what GFC will do — help local governments develop a vision and a game plan to benefit farmers and ranchers and community residents who are underserved by our current food system.”

Three-year project

Over a three-year period, Growing Food Connections will help local governments create their own plans, policies, partnerships, and make public investment to support family farmers and enhance food security. The communities will also serve as models for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges. They were selected from a competitive nationwide search and application process.


AFT will lead outreach efforts in partnership with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (GFC project lead), Ohio State University, and Cultivating Healthy Places. The American Planning Association and the Growing Food Connections National Advisory Committee also advise the project.

Learn more about GFC at

GFC is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA.